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288 pages, Kindle Edition
First published August 13, 1989
“It came to her that there were reasons behind events, reasons she did not know, and that the world contained many things that were other than what they seemed.”The Steerswoman is an introduction to what seems to be an interesting story to come — which is both its advantage and downfall. On one hand, I’m interested enough to see what happens first and how soon will the characters catch on to what I’m pretty sure I know is going on. On the other hand, it seems that all the interesting things are yet to come, and what we got was barely an intro, an extended first chapter to put the characters in the places we need them to be for when the actual interesting events start happening.
“Sometimes I feel people call it magic, because they want magic.”
“To protect the hope of an answer: that was the goal, the duty and the pleasure.”
“She was like a swimmer, exploring by touch alone the bottom of some rocky pool, trying to create a chart for something that could not be seen, a chart not for the eyes, but for the touch of the mind.”
"In every case where the jewels were found on one side of a thing, it's always been the northwest face. It's as if a giant flung them across the land--and the giant faced south-east."
"That may be the answer."
Rowan laughed, amused by the image. "No, it couldn't be, of course. He'd have to be far too tall, and far too strong."
"But why not, if it's just a question of size? There are more strange things in the world than you or I have seen."
Rowan felt a strange chill fall on her. She became aware of the space around and above her: the distance to the road, the edge of the forest close at hand. She sensed the area that the first line of trees defined, heard the wind whistling in the space that curved over their tops. She saw two women huddled by a fire, in a place that lay equally distant from each horizon, in the center of a circle. And she knew, with mapmaker's eyes, how small that circle was. The world was a very large place, and might well contain such things as giants large enough to scatter objects with a single toss, from the Long North Road to the heart of the Outskirts.
"Well, let's see." Rowan shifted back a bit from the fire, leaving a wide clear area in front of her. She picked up her pen and, using the blunt end, sketched in the dirt....
"A graph," Rowan began. She prepared to elaborate, but her thoughts ran ahead, leaving her explanation somewhat abbreviated. "It charts the time it takes an object to fall. The horizontal distance traveled isn't a factor. We look at distance traveled here--" and she sketched a second figure beside the first. "Moving objects fall in a curve. The harder the object is thrown, the faster it moves, and the farther it can travel before falling. And, of course, it helps to start from high up." ...
"But your line doesn't show that the ground curves too. The earth is round."
Rowan stopped short. Bel continued. "You don't need to think about it, normally, but if you're pretending the giant is throwing past the horizon, it seems to me that it would make a difference."
"True." Rowan felt faintly embarrassed for having underestimated the level of Bel's knowledge. She knew aristocrats in Wulfshaven who doubted that the earth was round. ...
"True, it would make a difference," she repeated. "You have the curve of the earth's surface--" She drew a long arched line. "And the curve of the jewel's path." She drew a second, wildly out of scale, intersecting the first. "And, of course, the harder he threw, the more the arc flattens." She drew a flatter path, reaching farther past the curved "horizon."
She looked at the three lines for a long time. "That's odd."
She reached out and added one more line to the out-of-scale sketch. ... "According to this, if he threw something hard enough, it would never come down."